Metroxpress reported on Wednesday that two decades of data from the Nordcan project, which tracks prevalence and mortality statistics o 50 major cancers in the Nordic countries, show that Denmark is at the bottom of almost every significant category.
Roughly one out of three Danes will experience some type of cancer in their lifetimes and only roughly 60 percent will survive for more than five years after their diagnosis.
In both cases, that puts Denmark at the bottom of the five Nordic countries. Danish women have had the Nordic record in all forms of cancer for the past 20 years while Danish men have been in second place behind Norwegians since 2004.
When it comes to survival rates, just 58 percent of Danish men and 61 percent of women are alive five years after their cancer diagnoses. The survival rates in the other Nordic countries are all over 64 percent, led by Sweden, where 69 percent of men and 68 percent of women can expect to live at least five years after being diagnosed with cancer.
Denmark’s survival rates have been the worst in the Nordics since 1984.
Metroxpress’s analysis of the Nordcan figures is in line with a study present at the European Cancer Congress in 2015 that showed that Denmark has one of the lowest survival rates in all of Western Europe.
Denmark's low survival rates are a double-edged sword, as the nation has the highest cancer rate in the world. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, Denmark has 338 cancer patients for every 100,000 residents.
A spokesman for the Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse) said that while Denmark is slowly closing the gap to its Nordic neighbours, Danes’ lifestyle choices are the primary factor behind the nation’s last-place status.
“We know from research that we could prevent 40-45 percent of all cancer illnesses. Tobacco alone is the cause of a fifth of all cancer cases and a third of deaths,” Hans Storm told Metroxpress.
The same message was echoed by Frede Donskov, the chief physician at Aarhus University Hospital’s Oncology Department.
“It’s about lifestyle. Tobacco, alcohol, sun habits and exercise,” he said.
Over the years, the Danish government has for years vowed to tackle the problem through a number of initiatives. In August, it presented its fourth so-called ‘Cancer Pack’ (Kræftplan IV) and called it a “historic” plan to combat cancer. A highlight of the plan is a national strategy to create “the first smoke-free generation by 2030”.
The plan did not, however, adopt other recommendations from the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen), including increased tobacco levies, plain-label packaging for cigarettes and forcing stores to place tobacco products out of plain view.
Health Minister Ellen Trane Nørby told Metroxpress on Wednesday that “there are other ways to achieve the goal than bans and levies”.
“We need to instead get better at explaining to young people in their own language what a terrible decision it is to start smoking,” she said.